Water companies to lose tens of millions after Brexit

Losing access to the European Investment Bank will force up the cost of raising debt, warns trade body boss

Loss of access to European Investment Bank (EIB) funds could cost water utilities tens of millions of pounds, the chief executive of Water UK has warned.

Michael Roberts told an audience of water industry executives last week that EIB funding will no longer be available to UK water companies after Brexit.

Speaking at his organisation’s annual City Conference, Roberts said the loss of access to the EIB will be costly.

“The additional cost of raising debt from other sources could amount annually to tens of millions of pounds over the course of the next AMP," he insisted.

In borader comments about the upcoming split with the EU and its impact on the UK water industry, Roberts said that it could create industry opportunities, for example by delivering greater domestic control over green legislation and public funding for agriculture.

Withdrawal from the EU offers “greater scope for water companies to work with others in delivering continued high standards of water and environmental quality more cost effectively,” he claimed.

However, Roberts questioned whether government and industry have “the will and the bandwidth to seize that chance”.

While EU environmental legislation is likely to be rolled over into UK law as part of the upcoming Great Repeal Bill, Roberts warned that it will be “one of a myriad of potential areas for post-Brexit change which could overwhelm policymakers”.

“There will be many competing calls for what the future arrangements should look like. But if we get it right, we can develop a holistic approach based on smarter, more outcome-based environmental legislation; agriculture funding that is more focused on buying public goods such as good water quality; and encouragement for a catchment-based approach to managing water resources where appropriate.” 

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